A ‘Blood Moon’ is coming this week - and will be should be visible to the whole of North America, New Zealand, and those in eastern Australia. This spectacular event where the full moon turns red as the moon is almost completely shadowed by the Earth. The eclipse will occur before dawn on in the early hours of Friday 19 November - with the dramatic mid-eclipse occuring at 4.02am EST in New York, or 1.02am PST in California.
This will be the first lunar eclipse since May 25-26 2021 – and this will be the longest lunar eclipse for over 500 years, lasting almost three and a half hours. Although the Moon’s orbit around Earth is a global phenomenon with a global schedule, whether our satellite will be above the horizon when it begins to turn strange colors will depend on shadows, angles and the quality of light visible where you are on the planet. Clear skies allowing, of course.
Unlike the May event, this will not be a total lunar eclipse. As explained by Space.com, "97.4% of the moon's diameter will become immersed in the Earth's dark umbral shadow at maximum eclipse, leaving just the southernmost limb ever-so-slightly beyond the outer edge of the umbra".
For those in the Pacific Rim, including all of US and Canada, it will afford an opportunity to create some special nightscape photos, with a setting ‘red moon’ in the ‘blue hour’ on the cards. But before we turn to photography let’s consider just what’s going on here, who’s going to see what, and when…
What is a lunar eclipse?
Also called a ‘Blood Moon’, a lunar eclipse is caused by a full Moon passing through Earth’s shadow in space. The Moon orbits Earth every 27 days, during which time it passes roughly between the Earth and the Sun (an invisible New Moon) and, 14 days later, moves to the other side of Earth to the Sun (a full Moon). The latter sees its near-side 100%-lit by the Sun, but just occasionally it travels precisely through the middle of Earth’s dark circular shadow in space.
When that happens – something that can take hours – the only light that can reach the lunar surface has first been filtered through Earth’s atmosphere. Short-wavelength blue light from the Sun tends to hit particles in Earth’s atmosphere whereas longer-wavelength red and orange light mostly travels right through.
The result, of course, is a ‘Blood Moon’, though in truth it’s more of a copper-reddish color.
• Read more: How to create a moonstack
Where and when to see the ‘Blood Moon’
Will you see it? You can easily find out exactly what time the eclipse will be visible from any location. Ignore the times for the ‘penumbral’ eclipse (the Moon merely dulls slightly as it enters Earth’s fuzzy outer shadow), but be outside from when the partial eclipse begins.
However, ‘maximum eclipse’ is the time you need to be ready for – and that’s 09:02:55 Universal Time on 19 November 2021. Take into account how high the Moon will be in the sky (its altitude) and also note its compass direction.
How to photograph a lunar eclipse
Lunar eclipses are often long, lazy spectacles where you can try a few things out, fail, and try again. Not so this one, so you need to make a plan and practice beforehand focusing your camera and changing settings manually.
A ‘Blood Moon’ is much easier to photograph than a solar eclipse, but this one is very short; you have less than 15 minutes to get a good shot of a copper-colored lunar surface. What’s more, the Moon’s path will just skim near the inner edge of the Earth’s dark shadow, so the top half of the Moon is expected to remain rather bright.
The most important thing you need? A clear sky. This is your number one priority. Check the weather reports and be mobile in the hours beforehand to maximize your chances. The west coast of the United States and Hawaii have the highest chances.
Equipment you’ll need, how to focus, and settings
For a close-up of the Moon you’ll need a DSLR or mirrorless camera with a 300mm telephoto lens on a tripod - but ideally one that is at least 600mm long. Alternatively a bridge camera, with its built-in superzoom will do the trick. Be sure to properly focus your lens. Using infinity focus might work, depending on your lens. An alternative that will work for all lenses is to use your camera’s LCD screen to look at part of the Moon zoomed-in, and then to focus until sharp (either manually or using auto-focus, though if the latter you must then switch to manual mode to prevent your camera from refocusing for your next shot).
With a shutter delay set, and shooting in RAW, during totality keep the aperture as wide as possible (a low f-number), begin with ISO 800 and use a fast shutter speed – about 1/100sec – to keep the shot sharp. It’s all a trade-off between ISO and shutter speed, but a Lunar Eclipse Exposure Calculator will help you figure out base settings for your lens. Bracketing either side of your target exposure is the way to go.
How to photograph the full moon
Here’s something the entire world can do - as wherever you are in the world, there will be a full moon for you to photograph. . Start-off with your camera set to ISO 100, f/10 and 1/125sec, but the exact settings will depend upon your lens and the quickly changing light.
The best captures of a supermoon rising and/or a lunar eclipse close to the horizon are those that have creative compositions. If you have enough ambient light to bring out the foreground, pan out a bit from the lunar disk, find something else of interest for your composition – a building, a mountain, people or preferably something unexpected – and let the majestic Moon (and perhaps also the Milky Way) help you create an out-of-this-world shot.
The next lunar eclipse
If it is cloudy tonight - then there are two opportunities for North Americans to see lunar eclipses in 2022. "The first coming on May 15-16 and the second occurring on November 8", according to Space.com. "Both will be visible across much of North America, with the first coming during 'prime-time' evening-to-midnight hours, while the second takes place (again) during the early hours of the morning; moonset and sunrise will interrupt the latter stages for those living in the East. Interestingly, in both cases the duration of totality will be the same, lasting 85 minutes".
Jamie Carter is editor of WhenIsTheNextEclipse.com
Jamie Carter is editor of WhenIsTheNextEclipse.com